Let’s be honest, newborns are not known for their consistency. That includes their bowel movements! Frequency of your baby’s poops can vary widely, and their stools vary in consistency due to their immature digestive system. So, is your baby’s stool normal? Probably, but let’s talk through it…
The frequency of bowel movements varies widely among babies. Many babies pass stool soon after each feeding due to the gastrocolic reflex, which causes the digestive system to become active whenever the stomach is full. However, fewer stools can be totally normal if your baby is breastfed because it leaves very little solid waste. If your baby is formula-fed, they may have at least one bowel movement a day.
“Newborns can stool seven times a day or once every seven days” says Dr. Alisa Roysman. “These ranges are completely normal! They also often strain to stool, which is called infant dyschezia, since they do not have the abdominal muscles needed to get the stool out. As long as the stools come out soft and smooth, this is all within the realm of normal. Hard stools, or a baby who did not pass meconium (their first stool) within the first 48 hours of life, can be concerning for other issues and should be followed by a pediatrician or specialist.”
If your baby is still constipated after trying these methods, we recommend speaking with a pediatrician at Summer Health to learn new ways to help make your baby comfortable.
It is normal for an infant's stool to be soft and a bit runny. So, it's not always easy to tell when a baby has diarrhea. Diarrhea is often caused by a change in the baby’s diet, or even change in the mother’s diet if the baby is breastfed. There is usually not a reason to be concerned as long as your infant is staying hydrated.
“High liquid content with their stool can be a sign your baby has diarrhea,” notes Dr. Alisa Roysman. “Their stool almost looks like urine absorbed into the diaper with little specks of solid inside the diaper.”
If your baby is not interested in feeding or seems to be uncomfortable while feeding, try smaller, more frequent feedings. If your baby is showing signs of diarrhea, offer plenty of fluids so your baby doesn’t become dehydrated. A hydrated baby should have at least 3-4 wet diapers in a 24 hour period. Sometimes starting an infant probiotic can also be helpful. We recommend looking for one with Lactobacillus reuteri as the active ingredient.
Diarrhea can also cause diaper rash, so it's important to keep your baby's diaper area clean and dry. If your baby does develop a rash, stop wipes and instead use mild soap and warm water to clean their booty, and apply a diaper cream or ointment to protect their skin. Dr. Alisa Roysman recommends something with Zinc, like Maximum strength desitin or Triple Paste, as zinc is very helpful in healing the skin and should be applied in a thick layer like icing a cake! Cover that with a thick layer of vaseline to lock it in.
If your baby's loose stool persists for more than a day or two, or if you notice any other concerning symptoms, such as fever, vomiting, or dehydration, it is best to call your pediatrician or connect with one at Summer Health to get an opinion.
Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Ali Alhassani
Harvard Medical School
Boston’s Children’s Hospital
February 19, 2023